If you are a physician requiring the assistance and/or monitoring of the Physicians Health Program (PHP), then you are like me. If you have a problem with substance abuse or other addiction, then you are like me. If you are in recovery, then you are like me. Or, are you?
Compliance with the monitoring requirements of PHP is a really important accomplishment, but it does not mean that you are in recovery. This column is the first in what I hope to be a series of efforts to offer advice to those of you, like me, who deal daily with the reality of addiction. My advice is specifically directed at those who are compliant with PHP but not necessarily in recovery. How do you know if you are in recovery or just compliant with the PHP requirements? The answer is found on pages 83-84 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and are re-stated here:
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.” According to the Big Book, these “promises” become apparent during the 9th of the 12 steps. If you are in recovery, then you already are or will soon begin to reap the benefits of these promises, and I assure you that they are real. If you are in recovery, then you are already following the advice that I have for the rest of you: Go to meetings; Get a sponsor; Meet/speak with your sponsor frequently; WORK THE STEPS (really)!
The tips I’m offering with this first column should sound familiar to anyone who attended a 12-step treatment center. There is a reason to repeat this obvious advice . . . it works! It will not only keep you sober (and compliant), but it will keep you happy, content, and prosperous!
As for the 12-step program, I recommend it because it works. When I left home for residential treatment, I told my wife not to worry, that I wouldn’t get brainwashed by that “12-step bulls&*t”. Well, I didn’t. I didn’t have to. The 12-steps are not a cult; they are a well-thought-out way of life. When I really learned what they were all about, I wished I had done so sooner. In fact, I feel lucky to be an alcoholic/addict because I have access to the program, and I’ve wondered if there should be a “Normal Person’s Anonymous” to allow others access to this benefit?
Anyway, the twelve steps ARE a benefit. Please take advantage of them!